With or without a follow-on agreement to START, the number of warheads in the Russian nuclear arsenal continues to shrink. But that doesn't mean Moscow has given up modernizing its strategic nuclear forces.
The landmark strategic arms reduction treaty (START) between the United States and Russia expired on December 5, 2009. Negotiations are in the final phase on a follow-on treaty intended to reduce deployed strategic warheads to between 1,500 and 1,675 and strategic launchers to between 500 and 1,100. When the follow-on treaty is signed, it will enter into force after ratification by the Russian Duma and U.S. Senate.
Although the follow-on treaty will further reduce Moscowâ€™s strategic forces, strategic nuclear force modernization is still a priority in Russia. In a November 2009 speech to the Federal Assembly, President Dmitry Medvedev said that in 2010 the Russian military would receive "more than 30 ballistic land- and sea-based missiles" and three nuclear submarines.
A new National Security Strategy, drafted in May 2009, clarified Russiaâ€™s nuclear weapons employment policy. Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, apparently the main author of the document, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta that the new strategy "stipulates the possibility of the employment of nuclear weapons depending on the conditions of the situation and the probable enemyâ€™s intentions. The conduct of a nuclear strike against an aggressor, including a preemptive strike, is not ruled out in critical situations for national security." This calculated ambiguity is similar to U.S. nuclear employment policy.